Archive for the Rap/Hip-Hop Category

Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns Review

Posted in Electronica, Rap/Hip-Hop, Rock/Alternative with tags , , , on September 23, 2010 by CruzerWpg

“A Thousand Suns” is a big bold album for Linkin Park.  It closely follows the nuclear warfare theme of 2007’s “Minutes to Midnight,” but correctly loses the U2 melodies and sonics that plagued the previous release.  This is Linkin Park at it’s finest;  without convention and without restraint.   However,  if you listen to the first single, “The Catalyst,” or any other track of the album, you might not hear it.  The album is just that, an album.  It is not a collection of songs.  It is one big peice of music – something that LP recognizes, and plans to release the album on iTunes as one track, 47 minutes and 56 seconds long.

“A Thousand Suns” is made up of 15 tracks, six of which are are under three minutes long and comprised of intrumental interludes or sound clips.  Recordings of Martin Luther King and atomic bomb developer  J. Robert Oppenheimer rise seamlessly amidst the layers of organic and technology-inspired sounds.  The most jarring moment of the album features a clean crisp recording of one of King’s emotionally-charged speeches.   His words are repeated, eventually being distorted until the emotion is gone -replaced by metallic screeching.  It begs the question: Do King’s words ring true as they once did, or have we (technology) replayed them and distorted them until the are monotonous and irrellevant?  Its a fair question, and a very subtle yet smart way of exploring the idea.

It is hard to review the album song by song, as each track plays a part in the overall picture, however standouts include ‘Burning in the Sky,’ ‘When They Come for Me,’ ‘Wretches and Kings’ and ‘The Catalyst.’  Even though the album is a collection of sounds and ideas, the noise speaks universally.  There are tribal beats, heart-shuddering basslines, raw rap verses, quiet acoustic moments and ear-shattering guitars and shouting.  It seems Linkin Park has made a album that transverses continents, cultures, and genres.  It’s fitting.  The scare of nuclear warfare knows no boundries, so neither does this piece of commentary and art. 

On a side note, forums and YouTube comments abound about how the band has lost it’s edge;  that they’ve gone soft.  It’s true that Linkin Park sounds nothing like the rap/rock band of ten years ago.  If they did, nobody would care.  Although, I challenge anyone to listen to the track “Wretches and Kings” off the new album and tell me it’s not hard enough for them.

Instructions Not Included: Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3

Posted in Rap/Hip-Hop with tags , on September 19, 2009 by CruzerWpg

200px-Blueprint_3It’s Jay-Z’s 11th studio album, and the first without his mug featured on the cover.    Is this a sign of new direction in the music contained on the disc as well?  Not really.  The smug rhymes are there, the big-name guests vocals are there (even more so than usual), and Jay-Z still spits about reaching the top.  It’s no mystery that Jay-Z is, and has been for quite a while, at the top of the rap game.  While The Blueprint 3 does contribute a lot of new elements to the genre,  it’s not groundbreaking. 

The first single, the excellent ‘D.O.A . (Death of Auto-Tune)’ has a killer guitar riff and hints of jazz throughout, yet seems to be contradictory.  The next track, the commercial-esque ‘Run this Town’ featuring VMA stuntman Kanye West and Rihanna tries its best to soften its electronic tweeking but Kanye’s other guest track, ‘Hate’, doesn’t even attempt to hide the effect.  It’s practically brimming with Auto-Tune.  Maybe the message is all tongue-in-cheek.  Fair enough.

One of the most enjoyable tracks off the album, ‘Empire State of Mind’, sounds like classic Jay, yet Alicia Keys’ guest spot adds polish and excitment.  One has to wonder, however, if it is the guest appearance that makes or breaks the track.  It’s a slippery slope when one starts to question the importance of the guests on other tracks and how much they really add to the song’s overall appeal. 

At almost 40, it is impossible not the credit Jay-Z for what he continues to do for rap music, he is still ‘on top’ for a reason.  While The Blueprint 3 does not reach the high level of The Black Album, it a good listen.  And as Jay says on the album’s closer, which samples an Alphaville classic, “so not for legends, I’m forever young.”